Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thoughts on Spring Cleaning

Part of my transition from apartment living to house living is the notion of spring cleaning. When I lived in apartments, either the spaces were small enough or I didn't live there long enough to warrant any project worthy of being called spring cleaning. Now, after about five years in the house, I'm noticing little things, like cobwebs in upper window corners and tribes of dust bunnies under the bed, starting to build up.

Don't get me wrong: I'm a far cry from "neat freak." I am untidy and disorganized, and sometimes I think my financial survival is pure luck. But yesterday, those windows bothered me. So as I was reaching behind the curtains to clean up the cobwebs, I noticed how dusty the blinds were. After scraping my knuckles and uttering a curse or two, I finally got them down to soak in the tub. Then back to the frames, which are wood. They were dusty and unhappy looking, so I didn't stop with the cobwebs. I gave them a nice treatment of Murphy Oil and washed the inside panes, and when they were decently dry, I re-hung the blinds. This little chore made my living smell so wonderful I found myself kicking back with a beer and relaxing music, just inhaling the combo of Murphy Oil, glass cleaner, and lemons (I use Mrs. Meyers aroma therapy cleaner).

I never imagined I would find joy from an act so simple and so domestic. The work itself wasn't exactly plesant; it was more akin to a labor of love. It's the kind of thing I don't normally get to because I spend more time on maintenance cleaning (litter boxes, dirty dishes, and laundry). Usually once the maintenace cleaning is done, I feel as though I've worked enough and it's time to relax. Yesterday I didn't do any maintenance cleaning, just spring cleaning.

I'm not gunning to start on every crevice of the house. I know I could find a "spring cleaning" project at any time during the year, as I've learned that the rooms I rarely go into still manage to get themselves dirty. Maybe it's what I need to do to create spring in the dead of winter: if I want to "rebirth" my home, I can lift up a piece of furniture and find a new home for the dust bunnies.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thoughts on Silence

I was raised to be quiet. My father often said "children should be seen and not heard" when things got unruly amongst my brothers and myself. In the car, we played the "quiet game," a contest to see who could go the longest without talking, and mom frequently requested her "peace and quiet." It's not that surprising that as an adult, I can't stand excessive noise. I prefer soft music, won't turn on the television for "background," and I hate it when there's a child demanding the audio attention of everyone with a screaming ear shot.

This past weekend I had a friend over who is mom of three. She commented to me about how it quiet it is here; that she is used to the constant chatter of her boys and rarely hears herself breathe. Until that conversation yesterday, it hadn't occurred to me that I have been taking my silence for granted. I'm used to hearing my breath, the swish sound a tissue makes when you pull it from the box, and now, the sounds of my fingers clicking on the keyboard. I can even hear the dog breathing as he naps at my feet.

The only real noise I have to cope with is that of my own thoughts. My brain is constantly rattling with what I'm doing now or what I'm about to do or what needs to be done (in T'ai Chi, we refer to this as our monkey brains). Sometimes my mind is so loud ideas sneak by with barely an acknowledgement and have no opportunity to see the light of day. On occasion, they get snagged like a lobster in a trap, and become something, like a blog entry or new meal or a flower garden. In dealing with my noisy mind, I have learned to do things (such as T'ai Chi or a long run without thumping music) to clear out the chatter and invite in the ideas. Those activities tend to wipe my mind clean like a black board, giving space for ideas to come forward and grow. It is usually shortly after these activities that I am able to write or begin a project, as my mind is free of the traffic jam of thoughts everyday life insists upon.

My friend's observation of my silence helped me appreciate it and the fact that I am able to control most of the noise in my home environment. The only racket I have to deal with is by my own personal choice, and I feel lucky to have life where that is possible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thoughts on Becoming My Mother

Upon visiting my mother last weekend for Mother's Day, myself and my brothers had to razz her a little for never allowing anyone to photograph her. Her only reply was "Just look at Karen!" I had to think, really? In many ways I don't look a thing like her, but in other ways, I look just like her. Admittedly, there have been times when I wake up first thing, see myself in the mirror, and think, "Mom?". And while my mom was a mother to 2.5 children by the time she was my age, there are definitely some major traits I carry of hers, most of them traits anyone would love to have.

For starters, my mom loves to nurture. As any mother does, all through my childhood she put the health and needs of the children well above her own, often wearing the same shoes or jackets for years so the family could keep the growing children clothed. She also made sure we knew that other people and animals have feelings. We were taught never to make others feel bad or put them down, never to hit animals, and always to care for them and treat them as equal members of the family.

I didn't just learn about loving others, but also to care for myself. Many of the healthy habits I have today I learned from Mom, and I still love discussing nutrition and cooking with her. Growing up, my parents grew many of our vegetables, which we ate fresh in the summer and canned in the winter, something I had no idea was a luxury until now. As a very young child, my exposure to processed foods and factory farmed produce was minimal, and looking back I have to partially credit my current health to that.

But it isn't just values I find myself repeating. I am an early riser, I love coffee and I love to read. I love to find joy in small beautiful things, like dandelions on an unmown yard or brown-eyed susans growing in the ditch along the freeway. I love solitude and peace. These are all things I know my mother to love, and grew up watching her love those things, and naturally learning to love them myself.

As I age, I know now that most of the time she was right, and when she wasn't, it was with loving intention. I hope that if I ever have a family of my own, I will succeed in passing along the ability to love and nurture as uncondionally as my mom did and continues to do for myself and my brothers, and my dad. I am proud to say I am like her.